Scotland’s obesity crisis: 8,000 children starting school overweight

More and more youngsters are overweight, prompting calls for action over unhealthy food and drink. Picture: PA
More and more youngsters are overweight, prompting calls for action over unhealthy food and drink. Picture: PA
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More than 8,000 children a year have been starting school overweight or obese in Scotland over the past decade it has emerged.

The Scottish Government is now facing fresh calls to tackle the issue, including a ban on advertising billboards for unhealthy food and drink.

A crackdown on the number of supermarket discount multi-buys are also among the measures being called for by Cancer Research UK.

Scotland now has one of the heaviest populations in Europe with two in three adults in Scotland either overweight or obese.

Obesity is linked to 13 types of cancers, the organisation warns, and it says that obese youngsters are five times more likely to become obese adults. It is launching its Scale Down Cancer campaign to push for action from ministers.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s cancer prevention expert, based at the University of Stirling, said: “It is really very worrying that children as young as four are entering primary school carrying too much weight.

“We should be concerned too about the picture this paints for the health of the nation as we know that obese children are around five times more likely to become obese adults. Obesity is also linked to 13 types of cancer including bowel, breast and pancreatic. If left unchecked, we run the risk of obesity becoming a crippling burden on society and the NHS.

“The Scottish Government must do more to serve up a better future for our children and protect youngsters from being bombarded by junk food marketing on TV, as well as the barrage of supermarket multi-buy offers on sugar and fat-laden food and drinks.”

The UK government recently unveiled plans to introduce on sugary drinks, but Cancer Research fear this doesn’t go far enough and is calling on the Scottish Government to act. The figures released by Cancer Research UK today indicate that there were 8,903 overweight or obese youngsters starting schools in Scotland in 2014-15.

This is down from 9,249 the year before, but both figures are way above the levels of the past decade. After falling to 7,470 in 2008-9, the numbers have been rising steadily since.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron backed the calls for action.

“The Scottish Government needs to outline in detail exactly what it intends to do to help parents keep their children’s weight down,” he said.